Homeless Survival Tips 

Homeless But Not Helpless

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How to make life be easier if you are homeless



Layer bedding – layers make things very comfortable - you can make tunnels in the bedding to trap the air to help it be warmer.

Put a tarp under a bed to trap in heat

For winter, if at all possible, get sleeping bags, especially the army below zero sleeping bags

Layer blankets and if it is very cold where you are, use a plastic drop cloth in between layers to trap in heat - especially at the foot area

Some people sleep with plastic bags on their feet to trap in the heat

In summertime, try to have cotton sheets - 100% cotton will ‘breathe’ better and keep you cooler



The dollar store has packs of them

You can put them above the windows to make shades at night for privacy

You can use them to hold tarps down


Can Opener

Get a good one that will last



When parking, try to be near a light but blend in

Stay around other homeless people

Many homeless people try to help other homeless people and they stick together to protect each other

Some malls are safe areas, some Box Stores or grocery stores will allow people to stay.

Truck stops and visitor centers can be good places to stop.

It is important to find out if it is safe before you settle in for the night.

It is also important to keep a low profile.

It is also important to keep moving.

In a Box Store parking lot everyone that was there moved daily or every couple of day to different locations in the parking lot. It is so important to blend in.

Lawn chairs by the car or noticeably changing clothes in the car are not good things to do.

Find a safe comfortable place to sleep in.

Some like sleeping in driver’s seat with the seat back, some sleep across the front seat, some it is the back seat.


Carpet remnants  

If you put them on the floor of the car so that when you were getting in and out you could switch them around to keep it dry under you and the layers keep the heat in.

In a camper or trailer they keep the heat in in winter and cool in summer.

In a tent, on top of the pallets, it is so much nicer.


Dark sheets or blankets

Keep you cool or warm.

It is also great to have dark sheets or blankets to cover windows and things, it is important to cover what you have in your car.

Moving blankets are great because they are thicker and heavier.


Duct tape

It can be used for so much. There is good cheap duct tape in Box Store.


Fire Extinguisher

It could save lives.


Hasp lock with metal screws is a cheap way to lock up the cab of a truck that does not have a lock or a container to keep things in.

Bungees also work as locks.

Few people take the time to deal with something bungeed up.


Ice Chest

Put in trunk or backseat for a mini refrigerator


Insulated board

Insulated board minimizes cold airflow under a camper. Cut up a board in strips and then duct tape them around the perimeter between the bottom of the trailer and the ground.

It is great also great on ceilings to keep heat in in winter and to trap the cool in summer.


Library—great place

Free computer usage; research information; sleep in the chairs while it is open; read newspapers and magazines to find out what is going on.


Lock up Everything

Unfortunately, some people like to steal from the homeless and kick people when they are down.



Pallets make great steps. You can also use pallets for making shelves, sheds, and fencing.



And usually pallets are FREE


Pee container

The Dollar Store sells plastic containers at three for a $1.00 with lids.  For a bigger area – get a 5 gallon bucket with lid - it is easier. Wash out with water daily and mouthwash. It removes the smell and leaves the container with a minty scent.


Pipe insulation

Pipe insulation is around $.50 to $2 a piece. Put it around door frames, cracks in between cab and bed of a truck, around edges in a tent, or where ever you need insulation. For a thick piece of insulation just hold flat and use duct tape to apply.


Plastic bags

Use for saving food, belongings, and shower products.

Black plastic trash bags – they can be used to store things

Plastic bags that hold things and do not allow them to get wet and seal close –worth looking for

Use to cover windows, hung up by bungees like curtains at night on car windows so no one sees that you are in the car.


Power Inverter

Be able to use electrical appliances or charge phone.  Look at discount stores for cheaper ones. Also auto supply stores sometimes sell cheap.


Propane camping stove

Use outside where it is safe and there cannot be a fire. It is a great way to save money, heat food and make coffee and tea.


Propane Heater - Mr. Buddy Heater

It is a great safe propane heater that works really well and you do not have to worry about the smell, mess, or it tipping over. It is a cheap way to easily heat up an area and keep it hot! Electric heaters are expensive to continuously run, but they do not keep a place as warm. Mr. Buddy can be purchased for $40-120 depending on size and where you get them. Look online – it is much cheaper. Buy the adapter for use with bigger tanks - you will save so much money.


Sterno cans

Sterno cans are a fantastic source of heat.

Take a sterno can in a baking pan filled with water on the floor of the car or the center of the tent. Open the window a bit for fresh air. MAKE SURE NOTHING is around the area or above it. Light the can. Be careful. It will have about a 2-3 hours burn but you can use it for a bit and then recover the can. Sterno produces a good deal of heat. You can get the sterno can for under $1 in many places. Sterno cans are also a great way to warm food.



Use around tents, around objects to store them, around tents, as insulation, to keep rain out, rope between trees as a sunscreen or roof, make a home from them, tarp your camper to keep it warm, keep belongings protected and you warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

Tarps are great with rope between trees to make a storage area.





Cover with tarps in winter to trap in heat.  In summer extend tarp from tent like a porch to extend covered area of shelter. Try to use brown tarps if possible because the brown is less noticeable. For tent and tarp areas, use pallets under to stay off ground and keep things dry.







Some YMCA’s will allow free showers for homeless people with a current id. It is worth asking.

Some churches will allow homeless people to take a shower. Ask politely and maybe they can help.

Mc Donald’s gives free refills for day. For $1 for coffee, it allows you to stay in Mc Donald’s and stay warm or be cool for a while.

Starbucks gives free refills for the day. Save the cup. It allows you to stay in there all afternoon.


Getting Mail

If you have a friend who will take in your mail, use that address but have your address as a box at the address.

Talk to the post man about that. Explain your situation to the post deliverer and explain what you want to do.

So your address would be:


123 Main Street (your friends address)

Box 2 (where you get the mail at)

Town, State, zip code


Get a PO Box at a post office - this is about $50 per year

Get a box at a UPS or mail drop center – this is about $12-15 per month. The UPS box is the best because it is private, convenient, they take mail and packages, and the address gives the perception that you have a place to live so you qualify anything that you need a permanent address for.



Telephone Communication

Safelink offers free phones for people with a disability, on SNAP, and other government programs.

Several phone stores carry Safelink; it is worth asking if you can get a phone right away.  If you need more than the 250 free minutes, it is not much for additional minutes.

For $20 you can get basic phone service and then from there you can get on Facebook and communicate with other people. Many homeless also communicate on Facebook or Craigslist.

There is a lot of communication among homeless people as they want to help each other. It is very important for homeless to communicate with other homeless people for emergencies, accidents, loneliness, and as a support system to keep each other up and happy. I never said I love you as much as after I became homeless and I meant it. The love and caring is so genuine.

When we were allowed to have an emergency shelter at a church, one homeless person would be called who had phone, and between word of mouth and communicating via Facebook and texting - we were able to have eighteen homeless people at the church that was kindly opening its doors, within an hour.